TouchNet, a Global Payments (NYSE: GPN) company and leading provider of integrated commerce and ID management solutions for colleges and universities, released the findings of its most recent report today. The survey, conducted in collaboration with Higher Ed Dive’s studioID, captured input from 150 higher ed executives.
The survey found that colleges and universities increasingly look to data to drive business decisions, grow revenue and improve efficiencies. Historically, data practices in higher education have lagged behind other industries, particularly in their ability to extract real business value from data insights. That’s changing as more institutions seek to unify disconnected data sources and apply insights to solve problems and uncover business opportunities.
Survey findings revealed five notable shifts in the past year:
- Colleges and universities have more data than ever. In open-ended answers, respondents pointed to diverse areas where their institutions are capturing more data now than a year ago, generally falling into three buckets:
- Financial: income, fees, grants, spending, payroll, financial aid.
- Student experiences: satisfaction, needs, attendance, post-graduation success, demographics.
- Business efficiencies: facility usage, impact of remote work, projected staffing, resource allocation.
- Student and staff experiences drive institutions’ approach to data. When asked what their institutions want to achieve with collected data, most respondents said they want to improve student experiences (56%) and improve staff/faculty experiences (46%). The ability to create better, more reliable or complete data came third, with 33% of responses.
- The role of data in business, financial or operational decisions varies widely. About three in 10 (29%) respondents said they let data steer decisions, ensuring next steps are rooted in evidence. The same number (29%) said they mix data insights, hunches and educated guesses in making decisions. At the other end of the spectrum, 21% base decisions on peer input and experience, and another 21% said their decisions are based largely on instinct, personal experience and preferences.
- Financials, trending behaviors, enrollment and retention topped the data insights wishlist that respondents would find most helpful. Specifically, respondents said access to real-time insights in the following areas would “drastically improve” their ability to meet performance goals:
- Campuswide financial data (50%)
- Trending behaviors (49%)
- Enrollment and retention (48%)
- Incomplete or disconnected data remains a barrier to gleaning more value. Eight in 10 (83%) respondents said it would be “very” or “extremely” helpful to have a single source of truth for more unified data across systems and departments. Additionally, 80% said two capabilities, in particular, would be “very” or “extremely” helpful: (1) mobile access to data insights and (2) the ability to log into a centralized dashboard, versus separate systems.
Survey findings align with feedback that Dr. Lindsay Wayt, senior director of analytics at the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), often hears from members. Following the pandemic-fueled data capture on student access and experiences, Wayt noted a growing desire for operational insights like space utilization, workforce engagement and retention. Changing demographics — both in student and staff audiences — is another area where administrators would like more data insights. “You have to start thinking about who your students and staff are today, and using data to make decisions about the various processes they go through,” she explains.
Data integration and automation is another “biggie” as institutions generate more data. “As more folks have a hunger for data, we’ll have to be faster in delivering analyses and making decisions,” Wayt says.
Adam McDonald, president of TouchNet, agrees: “There’s a reason why other industries have moved to cloud-based integrations and automations,” he explains. “You get a huge lift in efficiency and access to critical data to help spot hidden opportunities and threats faster and more easily.”
A full report of findings is available for download at https://resources.industrydive.com/industry-report-higher-ed-leaders-reveal-their-approach-to-data.
TouchNet collaborated with Higher Ed Dive’s studioID to field an online, invitation-only survey, polling 150 respondents in the U.S. and Canada from January to February of 2023. Most respondents were C-suite executives employed by four-year colleges and universities, each enrolling between 3,000 and 10,000 students. Other respondents included leaders in finance, student life, enrollment and security. The survey consisted of multiple-choice, open-ended, Likert-scale and matrix questions to understand current data practices, challenges and opportunities facing higher ed.
TouchNet is the leading provider of integrated commerce and ID management solutions for colleges and universities. A Global Payments company, TouchNet helps higher ed institutions support the entire learner lifecycle, simplify payments and permissions, and run a smoother, safer and more efficient campus. | touchnet.com